Laryngitis is the inflammation and swelling of the larynx, also called the voice box. This usually results to hoarseness or loss of voice. This is because the vocal cords are contained in the larynx, thus damage to the larynx may affect the voice because of the possible inflammation of the vocal cords. The vocal cords open and close smoothly, creating sounds through their movement and vibration. In some cases, airway becomes blocked due to the trachea’s location, which is below the larynx.
Laryngitis is either classified as acute or chronic. Acute laryngitis is only short-term and lasts only for two weeks or less.Most cases of laryngitis are consideredacute and caused by a vocal strain or viral infections that are not serious. Viral infections are contagious. On the other hand, chronic laryngitis lasts for more than two weeks, typically due to more severe underlying conditions. Chronic laryngitis may lead to nodule or polyp formation on the vocal cords.Although not common, laryngitis may progress to complications such as pneumonia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic bronchitis and vocal cord paralysis.
Causes of Laryngitis
Laryngitis is often associated with upper respiratory infection. These are typically acute infections. Chronic infections are often due to excessive use or trauma.The following can lead to the irritation and swelling of the larynx.
- Acute infection:
- Viral infection, such as in cases of flus and colds (most common)
- Bacterial infection
- Overuse, misuse or abuse of voice, such as in singing, shouting and cheering
- Chronic infection:
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Inhalation or swallowing irritants and chemicals
- Habitual overuse of voice
- Excessive alcohol and/ or smoking
- Injury to the throat
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection
Symptoms of Laryngitis
Symptoms may slightly vary in children and in adults. The following are the most common associated symptoms of laryngitis:
- Most common symptoms:
- Hoarseness or loss of voice
- Painful throat
- In adults:
- Sore throat
- Painful when swallowing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Dry cough
- Fullness feeling in the throat or neck
- In children:
- Hoarse barky cough
First Aid Treatment and Management for Laryngitis
First aid treatment and management for laryngitis will depend on the underlying cause and the symptoms that manifest. However, the following steps are generally recommended:
- Rest voice as much as possible and avoid talking or any activity that may add strain to the vocal cords. Use voice only when necessary.
- Keep the airways moist by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid dehydrating agents such as caffeine and alcohol.
- Keep the throat moist by gargling salt water, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on lozenges.
- Avoid decongestants to avoid drying the throat.
- Use a humidifier to keep the air moist.
- Avoid whispering as it may strain the voice.
- For cases of bacterial infections, antibiotics should be taken.
Laryngitis is not typically considered a call for alarm. It can be effectively managed at home with sufficient home care. To learn how to treat and manage laryngitis and other every day medical scenarios, enrol in First Aid Courses with Red Cross Training.
Laryngitis. (ND). MedicineNet.com. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.medicinenet.com/laryngitis/article.htm